Kristina Smiley, PhD

2022 K99/R00 Awardee
photo of Kristina Smiley
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Kristina Smiley graduated from Cornell University in 2017 with her PhD in Psychology and Behavioral & Evolutionary Neuroscience under the supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Adkins-Regan. During her PhD she studied the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying animal social behavior. Specifically, she showed that the hormone prolactin, which is commonly referred to as a “lactation hormone”, is required to show parental behaviors in both male and female birds. For her post-doc work, Kristina moved to the University of Otago in New Zealand to work with the world’s leading expert in prolactin neuroendocrinology, Dr. Dave Grattan. There, her work showed that prolactin signaling in the brain is required for the display of male parenting behavior in mice. For her K99 award, Kristina has joined Dr. Luke Remage-Healey’s lab at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to study how auditory processing changes during times of parenting using a biparental avian model. To do this, she will be using in-vivo electrophysiology to record from auditory neurons while parents are behaviorally responding to offspring begging calls across the developmental period. She will also be using in-vivo optogenetics to manipulate auditory neurons in awake and behaving birds to observe the effect offspring begging calls have on parenting behavior. With these new skills, Kristina aims to create a novel research program which studies how neuroendocrine and sensory systems interact to generate appropriate parental responses to offspring. This new work will shed light on how the parental brain uniquely functions, which will aid in the understanding of the potential underlying causes of postpartum mood disorders.